You’ve probably heard of spousal maintenance before, and if not, you’ve certainly heard of alimony. Well, they’re one and the same, but here in Minnesota — there are some slight differences in how spousal maintenance is handled and awarded following a divorce.
Spousal maintenance exists to preserve the lower-earning spouse’s standard of living, and you’ll typically hear about these awards following high profile divorce cases. However, spousal maintenance isn’t just for the rich and famous — as many divorcing couples may find themselves in conflict about whether or not these awards should be given or received.
In a perfect world, divorcing couples would sit down and discuss what is fair regarding spousal maintenance. They would come to an agreement regarding the amount and the length of these awards instead of taking it to court. Unfortunately, that’s not how it typically goes. Divorcing couples that cannot amicably agree to spousal maintenance time frames and amounts — end up in court. Here, it becomes both expensive and uncertain, as it’s left in a judge’s hands.
Compared to other legal struggles involved in a divorce, such as child support settlements, where there’s a clear cut formula — spousal maintenance is up to the court. While there’s no formula, there are factors surrounding a couple that illustrates trends in how the courts will award spousal maintenance.
What Factors Affect a Judge’s Decision?
The judicial discretion that surrounds spousal maintenance means that there are certain factors that have a significant impact on the success or failure of a request.
These awards can be either temporary or permanent.
Now, before diving into the various differences between a temporary and permanent spousal maintenance reward, let’s explore the factors that can affect a judge’s decision.
Every case is unique, and as we mentioned, there is no one size fits all equation or solution that determiners spousal maintenance. In Minnesota, the courts attempt to make a decision based on fairness for both parties involved and do not take marital misconduct into consideration.
Well, at the top of the list of factors is the length of the marriage and the income of each party. However, these aren’t the only stipulations that play a role. Here are some of the most influential factors that will determine whether or not spousal maintenance is rewarded — along with its temporary or permanent status.
Obviously, income disparity between spouses can drastically affect whether or not spousal maintenance is rewarded. Spousal dynamics are in play here, as one partner may work while the other takes care of the home. Therefore, income may be fruitful for one, but only possible due to the sacrifices made by the other.
Assets and marital property can have a significant impact on the type of spousal maintenance and the amount rewarded. So, it’s important to know the size of varying marital estates and how whether or not it’s marital or non-marital property. The status of the assets is crucial and can play a big role when it comes to how the court decides spousal maintenance.
It may come as a surprise, but the age of each spouse can also affect a judge’s decision. The ability to work or acquire the job skills necessary for obtaining income is important.
Standard of Living
While the standard of living may play a bigger role in massive estate divorce cases, it’s still possible that the average spousal maintenance case may be affected by this factor.
Job history, work experience, and education all contribute to skills that make career opportunities and income possible. So, it’s not difficult to see why these factors play their part in how the courts determine spousal maintenance. If one spouse sacrificed schooling to raise children, this might be grounds for spousal maintenance awards. Financial stability arises from a foundation, and a judge will take this into consideration when considering awards.
In addition to what we’ve already covered, loss of earnings, retirement benefits, and other financial opportunities that one spouse may have declined or put on hold can also affect spousal maintenance awards.
All of these factors play a role, and while they’re not the entirety of the decision-making process — they do have a significant impact on the spousal maintenance decision. Even physical and emotional health may be looked into as well.
While it would be a lot cheaper and more efficient for spouses to come to a shared conclusion — these cases are typically highly contested. It’s for this very reason that having an experienced family law professional by your side is so important during this process.
Temporary Vs. Permanent Spousal Maintenance
When a judge examines all of the factors we mentioned above, the decision to award spousal maintenance isn’t the only determination. There’s also the type of spousal maintenance too. In Minnesota, a judge will decide whether or not a temporary or permanent model of spousal maintenance suits a particular divorcing couple.
Temporary Spousal Maintenance
Depending on a wide range of circumstances, a temporary spousal maintenance order may be the right fit. Shorter marriages may be grounds for a temporary spousal maintenance decision. Moreover, if one spouse is on their way to obtaining certain job skills, in school, or attempting to gain employment, temporary spousal maintenance may be given. The limited-time award serves as a sort of rehabilitative period where one spouse can get back on their feet and establish liveable income.
Permanent Spousal Maintenance
A judge may decide that permanent spousal maintenance is appropriate. However, it’s not a very common result. Longer marriages (20 years or more) with a very large gap between incomes are typically a candidate.
It should be noted that permanent spousal maintenance is difficult to obtain — but not impossible with the right legal counsel. Permanent does not mean forever, as the order will end once a spouse dies, remarries, or a court order in the future says otherwise.
Can Spousal Maintenance Orders Change?
Yes, there are several stipulations that may cause spousal maintenance rewards to change. Whether it’s clerical errors in payments, fraud, falsified information, hidden assets, or an over-turned order — spousal maintenance can be affected by certain conditions.
New evidence that affects a case or emerging financial situations such as job loss could also play a role. Health changes or even remarriages could also affect spousal maintenance orders.
Here in Minnesota, spousal maintenance cannot be affected by who is at fault when it comes to divorce, even with adultery. We’re what is commonly known as a “no-fault state.” So, a spouse cannot attempt to seek rewards based on the cause of the divorce.
Whether you’re attempting to obtain spousal maintenance or you’re trying to contest it, you’ll need an experienced family law attorney by your side. It can be an extremely stressful and time-consuming endeavor, but the right advocate and legal counsel can make a real impact.Read More
Divorce is an emotionally charged and difficult process, and it only becomes more complex when property division is added into the equation. One of the best ways for individuals to protect their rights is to become knowledgable and well-informed regarding their responsibilities — along with what they are entitled to during property division.
It’s not uncommon for divorce proceedings to be lengthy and stressful endeavors. It’s during these troubling times that many spouses find themselves missing crucial pieces of information about the nuances of property division, and how they can ensure that their rights are being taken care of.
How Minnesota Handles Property Division
One of the more misunderstood aspects of property division is how different states actually have varying ways in which they manage the process.
Minnesota is considered an equitable distribution state. A judge will consider a wide variety of factors that may impact how to distribute property amongst the parties equally. Some of these factors include (but are not limited to):
- The length of the marriage
- Prior marriages
- Personal & financial circumstances of each spouse
- Earning capacity
- Both spouses age
- Contributions to marital property
Essentially, all property that is acquired during a marriage is considered marital property and, therefore, can be equally divided between both parties. However, non-marital property can still be owned by an individual even if it’s acquired while the marriage is still intact. Non-marital property is not a part of the property division equation.
Minnesota does not offer both parties an automatic split down the middle route, where marital assets are divided 50/50 between spouses. Instead, the court will use the factors mentioned above, such as the length of the marriage, earning capacity, etc. to determine what is an equitable division of property.
While Minnesota and other states adopted the equitable distribution as their property division methodology, some states utilize community property laws to regulate property division.
Currently, there are nine states in the U.S. that are considered community property states.
- New Mexico
In these states, all property that is acquired during a marriage is considered marital property, which means that it can be divided between spouses during a divorce. Because both individuals are considered one singular economic unit, each spouse is entitled to exactly half of the marital assets during a dissolution.
The Ins and Outs of Marital Property
Marital property can seem like a complicated situation on the surface, but once an individual understands the bottom line that separates marital and non-marital property, they are able to make much more informed decisions during a divorce.
For couples in Minnesota who are going through the difficult process of a marriage dissolution — marital property is of the utmost concern. However, there may be some grey area surrounding what is marital property and what is non-marital property. We’re here to provide some much-needed clarity regarding their differences.
What is Marital Property?
Before the valuation stage of a divorce, any property, debts, or assets that were obtained during the marriage are considered marital property. The valuation stage usually takes place during the “Initial Case Management Conference” and is put in place to mark the separation of marital property.
Any property, assets, or debts are then considered eligible for property division here in Minnesota. There are certainly some areas that may need further discussion, such as an inheritance, but that is typically taken care of during the designated valuation stage. An experienced family law and divorce attorney will help create some transparency and equitable division.
If a spouse wants to dispute certain properties that were acquired during the marriage and claim them as non-marital, they may do so. However, it’s up to whichever spouse is making these claims to provide proof that the designated property is, in fact, non-marital.
Because Minnesota only divides marital assets, we often get questions about how the courts make their decision. There are a lot of factors that can affect marital property division, including:
- Marriage length
- Any prior marriages
- Sources and amount of income
- Health conditions
- Estate information
- Liabilities of each spouse
- Futura capital asset opportunities
- Spouse contributions as a homemaker
- Value contributions of each spouse (acquisition, appreciation, depreciation, and preservation of marital property value)
Each one of these areas can affect the division of marital property, and it’s important for spouses to be aware of how these factors can impact the outcome of a divorce.
What is Non-Marital Property?
Non-marital property is not eligible for division in the state of Minnesota. But, what is non-marital property?
Any and all property that was acquired either before, during, or after the marriage is considered non-marital property. However, these are not the only stipulations that designate property as non-marital.
Gifts, bequests, or inheritances received from a third party to only one spouse is non-marital property. Also, property, assets, or debts that were acquired after the valuation date are non-marital by nature and are not subject to division. The same can be said for property, assets, or debts that are designated as a part of a valid antenuptial agreement as non-marital.
The Home and its Complications
Some property can be a little complicated, especially the home. There are certain issues that can arise when dealing with the homestead in that it is not uncommon for one spouse to have owned the property prior to getting married.
The waters can become muddy because, after the marriage, both spouses live in that home and create marital value within the same location and property. So, when a marriage dissolution occurs, the home can become both marital and non-marital and requires specialized consideration during the property division stage.
This is where the Schmitz Formula comes into play, and it’s a technical way in which the courts manage certain complications regarding the homestead and property division.
How Cline Jensen P.A. Can Help
Finding experienced legal counsel during a divorce can make a world of difference in protecting a spouse’s rights and ensuring fair and equitable property division. Understanding the differences between non-marital and marital property is an important step for couples in Minnesota, where equitable distribution determines their future.
Here at Cline Jensen P.A., we’ve guided numerous spouses through the difficult property division process, and we have satisfied testimonials to back it up.
A divorce is an emotionally taxing experience, regardless of the size of the estate. However, high asset divorce settlements can be an especially complex process, involving more financial assets and complications that require experienced legal support.
With a massive estate, there is so much more at stake. It’s not uncommon for these more significant estate divorce settlements to be a messy affair. However, it doesn’t always have to be this way. A dedicated family law attorney with experience in high asset divorce settlements can help mitigate issues and alleviate some stress. A trusted attorney can protect your interests and secure your future, keeping your informed about your rights and advocating for you every step of the way.
Get Your Finances in Order
One of the most complex areas of a high asset divorce is the financial web that needs to be sorted out. Locating all of the essential financial documents before the divorce begins can give you a head start. These documents need to be protected because they can provide substantial proof of what is considered marital vs. non-marital property.
Once a divorce is underway, the emotional toll can be difficult to navigate. Also, belongings get shifted around, and documents may be accidentally (or in some cases, purposely) divided, which means crucial financial documents may be hard to find. Getting your finances in order before the divorce process begins can be a huge lifesaver.
Also, having all of your finances and financial documentation in one secure location can paint a picture of what type of financial situation you may be dealing with. High asset divorce settlements deal with a lot of assets, and some may be forgotten until it’s too late. If you don’t want any surprises popping up during the property division stages, it’s smart to locate and secure these financial documents early.
What to Expect During a High Asset Divorce
One of the best tools at a spouse’s disposal during a high asset divorce is information. Knowledge about what to expect and which factors may affect one’s future is essential in any divorce but is especially important during a high asset divorce with a large estate.
Some key elements of a high asset divorce include division of marital property and spousal maintenance (also known as alimony). If there are children involved, there will certainly be child custody, visitation, and child support considerations that will need to be managed with care and attention.
A Deeper Look at Finances
Assets have various statuses during a divorce, and understanding which falls under a specific category is important when handling a high asset divorce. Marital assets (also known as community assets) are those that have been earned, acquired, or obtained during the marriage and are subject to division. Prenuptial agreements may change these stipulations up slightly, but typically, these marital assets are divided according to equitable distribution.
Equitable distribution means that the courts look at a wide variety of factors that contribute to the state of the marriage and then divide marital property equally between the spouses.
Separate assets, or those that are considered non-marital, will not be split between the spouses upon a divorce. These assets can include:
- Property owned before the marriage
- Property that has been purchased under a single spouse’s name, purchased to keep separate, or separated in writing
There are are a lot of assets that fall into a grey area, especially in massive estate situations. Non-marital assets end up combined with marital ones, and the complexities only seem to get larger and larger. An experienced divorce attorney can help trace non-marital assets that may have been commingled marital assets, which is another reason why locating documentation early on is so important.
Out of state or international assets are also fairly common during high asset divorce. Foreign assets or those that are located out-of-state will need experts brought in to deal with. Sound legal counsel and early intervention with these assets are crucial.
Likelihood of a Contested Divorce
Depending on the state of the marriage, cause of the eventual divorce, and the relationship between the two spouses — the probability of a contested divorce is much higher with larger estates.
This is primarily because spouses are in a much better financial position to spend the money to contest. Also, the money spent contesting certain assets may pale in comparison to the reward of winning a certain set of assets. So, if the asset rewards are higher than the price of the divorce, you can expect to see a contested divorce.
Valuation appraisers will likely be brought in to determine the value of the assets being split up, especially in larger estates where expensive assets are everywhere. Each spouse will have their own independent valuation expert that will determine an asset’s worth, along with helping identify assets that may be overlooked or forgotten.
During a contested divorce, the most costly asset is time. These proceedings can be drawn out for an unnecessary length of time, especially when financial paperwork isn’t located early on — or is hidden from the other spouse. Not only does this cost both parties more than they need to spend during the divorce, but it can also have consequences in court.
It’s not unlikely that spousal maintenance may be part of the equation during a high asset divorce. However, it can be far more complicated than a smaller estate. Uncovering the financial complexities of a massive estate can breed contention amongst the parties and also be difficult to do.
As we mentioned, parties may hide financial documentation from their spouses before or during a divorce. They may also hide bank accounts, assets, or even property from their significant other. During a divorce, these assets may be uncovered and may drastically impact spousal maintenance proceedings.
Find an Attorney You Can Trust
High asset divorces are a difficult endeavor and require veteran divorce attorneys that can advocate for and support your interests. The messy nature of high asset divorce cases means that you need an attorney that you can trust and who understands the financial complexities of a massive estate divorce.
Do your research and make sure that your attorney has a longstanding history of success in family law cases, especially with complicated estate divorce settlements.Read More